There is no Zionism without Jerusalem
Why does a Jewish homeland anywhere else seem hollow and empty? The answer is Jerusalem.
IDF soldiers celebrate at the Western Wall in 1967 Photo: Courtesy Werner Braun/Jerusalem Post Archives
This week celebrates 45 years since the reunification of Jerusalem after the
miraculous Six Day War. One of the most emotional documents in the
historical record is the audio recording of the paratroopers entering the Lions’
Gate and arriving at the Western Wall.
The version of the recording
available on the Internet has been shortened but the original translated text is
still available. The radio broadcaster reports from within the walls of
the Old City describing his emotions upon reaching the stones of the Western
Wall. Soldiers recite the Shehechianu prayer. Rabbi Shlomo Goren sings El
Maleh Rachamim in honor of those who have fallen and in the recording one can
hear the soldiers’ heart-rending sobs. The shofar is blown and Goren says
that it is in this year that we are in a rebuilt Jerusalem.
part of the Jewish people in the same way that the heart is part of the human
body. It is not merely an organ that keeps the body functioning. Without
it there would be no life. The last line of the Passover Seder calls for “Next
Year in Jerusalem!” Before the groom breaks the glass at his wedding he says “If
I forget thee, O Jerusalem...” When Jews pray, they face
Jerusalem. Ethiopian Israelis have chosen Jerusalem Day to commemorate
the Ethiopians who died on the long trek to Israel. The song “Jerusalem of Gold”
is recognized the world over.
The national anthem of Israel concludes
with the line “To be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and
Jerusalem.” Both with religious and secular associations, the list goes
on and on.
The State of Israel passed a law in 1980 declaring that
“Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.” While not
internationally recognized as such, until the law is changed, Jerusalem is the
complete and united capital of the sovereign State of Israel.
By law, by
religion, by emotion, Jerusalem is the center, the core, the heart of the Jewish
people and the State of Israel.
Along with the idea of two states for two
peoples, we are asked to consider Jerusalem as the shared capital for these two
states. We are told that holding Arab-majority neighborhoods in east Jerusalem
as jailers is morally abhorrent. We are told that misguided Zionism has
turned us into overlords. It might be suggested that Jerusalem was divided from
1948-1967 and it did not destroy the State of Israel or substantially damage the
Jewish people around the world.
I would suggest a different perspective
and a different understanding of the big picture. In theory, a shared
capital sounds both fair and logical. Even an international city sounds
like a legitimate argument for the status of Jerusalem. This would require
Israel to change its own sovereign law, divide its own capital city, compromise
its own religious feeling toward Jerusalem and limit its secular love of the
ancient city of Jerusalem.
Arab-majority neighborhoods are a different
question. I propose that this is a social issue, not a question of
Zionism or even the status of Jerusalem. Every major city in the world has less
desirable neighborhoods. Poverty and crime are more obvious. The police presence
there is greater. Classical Zionism tells us that the Jewish people have
a legitimate right to live in the historic land of Israel. It did not provide a
plan for a utopian society or even a framework for solving societal ills. It is
our responsibility today to face these challenges, not to delegitimize our own
existence or undermine the idea of Zionism.
From the year 70 CE, when
Jerusalem fell to the Romans, until 1967, the city was not under Jewish control.
And yet, Jews around the world continued to yearn for Jerusalem – not for
Tiberias, not for Safed, not for Hebron. In 1948, when the Jewish state was
established and immediately plunged into a war, the infant state was not able to
hold Jerusalem. But still the people yearned for Jerusalem. And finally, when
the paratroopers entered the Old City on June 7, 1967, religious and secular
alike were awed by their achievement.
Lt.-Gen. Mordechai “Motta” Gur,
commander of the force in the Old City, a secular, native-born Jerusalemite,
declared “The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our
hands!” He did not say “The Old City” or “The Jewish Quarter.” Rather, his
Jewish heart told him that the important thing was the Temple Mount; the Temple
Mount was in our hands.
When a people fulfill a dream, a 1,900-year-old
dream, how does that people abandon it and give it to someone else? How does one
give up even part of that dream? Zionism tells us that we have a legitimate
right to have a state in our historic homeland. The heart of our homeland is
Jerusalem. We need not apologize for advocating for our right to the Zionist
dream, nor for fulfilling that dream.
So on this Jerusalem Day, imagine a
Jewish homeland in Uganda, or in Alaska, or in Madagascar. Why does a Jewish
homeland anywhere else seem hollow and empty? The answer is
The writer lives and works in Jerusalem and volunteers for Im